This blog post dedication goes out to a very special presidential candidate…and the way he’s changed my life.

As some of you may know, I work in the health insurance industry, for a local company which shall remain nameless.  Yes, it feels paradoxical to be working in that field when I’m a supporter of a single payer system, but that’s life for ya.  Working in insurance may seem like the most boring career path ever–I’m like Kafka without the brilliant novels–but over the years, I’ve enjoyed my job and found some good friends among my co-workers.  It’s been a nice stable paycheck, and I was hoping to keep working there for years to come.

And now the company I work for is imploding.  Why?  Well, there are multiple factors, but a major one stands out.

When insurance companies agreed to join the Obamacare exchange, the government promised them payments from something called a risk corridor program.  This was meant to compensate them for the fact that they would be taking on a large number of new customers who had been uninsured for a long time, and thus would be very sick and would need costly treatment.  This turned out to be true, and costs for the industry have been even higher than expected.  If anything, this is evidence for just how broken our healthcare system was previous to the Affordable Care Act.  All these newly insured Americans are now finally receiving care for medical conditions they were often forced to neglect because they couldn’t afford to have them treated.

I certainly do not expect sympathy for insurance companies in this scenario.  However, the risk corridor payments were supposed to make the transition to Obamacare smoother and keep the health care infrastructure from falling to pieces.  Supposed to.  But only 13% of the risk corridor money which was promised has been paid out.  And it’s all because of that one very special guy.  Yep, Marco Rubio.  Marco cut most of the risk corridor money out of the budget, and he’s very proud of it.  He brags about being the only conservative who has truly succeeded in damaging Obamacare.  Because it’s so much more important to stick it to the President than to allow Americans access to health care…

So now, insurance companies across the country are going out of business, employees are facing layoffs–and the truly frustrating thing is that Obamacare is getting the blame.  I’m hearing it myself around my own workplace.  It’s easy to think that it’s Obama’s fault, if you haven’t heard all the facts.  Rubio knew what he was doing.

Okay, so saying that I’m not voting for Marco for President is a bit of an empty threat–it’s not like I was going to vote for him before.  Still, I’m definitely never voting for him now. Not for dogcatcher.  I’d gladly vote for Bernie over him.  A shoe could be running against him and I would vote for the shoe.  Call it a personal grudge.

Say it with me, everyone:  elections have consequences.  Think there’s no difference between the candidates?  Think it’s not worth your time to vote?  Nope, nope, nope.  My future, and the future of almost 2,000 other workers, hangs in the balance right now because of the actions of one man.  Vote like the quality of your life depends on it… because it does!!!

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Okay, here is one of those situations which makes me question if our health care system is really the “best in the world”.  The Wall Street Journal reports today that UnitedHealth announced a 5.5% rise in its profits, higher than expected.  This is reported as very good news for the economy, as UnitedHealth is the first medical insurance company to reveal its profits this quarter, and is a good indicator of how other insurance companies are doing.

The reason UnitedHealth’s profits are higher than expected?  Due to the recession, people have been avoiding hospitals and doctors in order to save money.

This right there is a problem.  We have a system in which patients and insurance companies are on opposing sides.  Patients have to use as few services as possible if the insurance company is to make a profit.  The criticism we always hear of a government-run system is that it would deny people services, but it sure seems to me like the private insurance company would also want to find ways to deny its customers services, otherwise, where is the profit?  This, of course, is why we need Medicare–the elderly get sick too often to be profitable.  The article states that as the economy gradually improves, the use of medical services is expected to pick up again–but will that not be bad news for the insurance industry, and thus bad news for a large sector of our economy?  This sounds like a lose-lose situation.

Granted, there are inefficiences and abuses in the health care system, and the population of our country could stand to lead a healthier lifestyle, which would cut down on health care costs.  But the thing about medical care is, it’s not always a choice.  Sometimes you simply need to be able to use it.  And if people are foregoing preventive care which could avoid more serious problems later so that they can save money, the results of that cannot possibly be good.

Naturally, the irony of all this is that the Affordable Care Act does not scrap the private insurance industry.  Rather, it expands the customer base for it.  So this blog is by no means meant to sing the praises of recent health care reform.  It is just meant to express yet again the serious doubts I have about our current system.  If there is any way to read the above news about UnitedHealth and take away something positive from it, I would love to hear it.

 

A couple years ago, my mother became one of the uninsured.  My father got a new job and his employer’s health care plan does not cover spouses or children. 

On a quest to find health care coverage that we could afford while paying our other bills, she applied for an individual insurance plan…only to be rejected because she had once been seen by a doctor for liver pain.  Mind you, no serious or ongoing liver problems, just a one-time visit.  Now, if she applies for any other individual insurance, her application will have to state that she has been previously rejected by another insurance company (there is a question on insurance applications which requires this), pretty much guaranteeing that no other plan will accept her. 

So, since paying the full premium for the employer coverage is not affordable for her, Mom claims she is fine with not having any insurance.  The thing that scares me the most is that I know perfectly well she is the kind of person who will pretend that she is doing great, even if she happens to be sick or in pain.  She doesn’t want anyone else to worry about her and will sacrifice herself before she does anything that would endanger her family’s financial future.

I hear a lot of people talking about how government health care will take away our liberty.  My question is this:  exactly what kind of liberty will it take away from my Mom?  The liberty not to get medical treatment?  The liberty to lose our house and everything we have if she gets seriously ill?  The liberty to live with the stress and worry of that?  Are those the exciting freedoms I have heard so much about?  What choices would single payer take away?  If I get sick under the current private health care system, I will go to the doctor and get treated for it (if I can afford it).  If I get sick under single payer, I will go to the doctor and get treated for it.  The health care system will make absolutely no difference in the choices I make, except that I won’t have to panic about the money side of things.  Are there really exotic treatment options that I’m not aware of that will disappear if government health care comes in?   

The solution which always gets trotted out in this country in response to desperate situations is that of private charity.  My mother’s answer to any such conversations is to snap, “I shouldn’t have to beg for my health care.”  And she’s right—she shouldn’t.

Thankfully, there is a real solution, and it’s a lifesaver for us.  My parents are both in their 60s, so the time when they will be able to get on Medicare is quickly approaching.  I am literally praying for the moment when Mom can have her Medicare, and praying that she doesn’t develop any life-threatening conditions in the meantime…there’s still a few years to go.

And to think, when she turns 65 she will lose all that “freedom”…poor thing!